Now that President Barack Obama has assembled his all-star foreign policy team, who has been the most influential? It might surprise you to hear my nominee for that status is CIA Director John Brennan. Actually, it’s no contest.
More than any other individual, Brennan has come up with a bold, clearly defined foreign policy strategy for the Obama Administration, though it has been poorly understood by analysts, political figures, and the general public. Even as the advisor on counterterrorism to President Obama, Brennan had overwhelming intellectual influence in setting the course of American strategy, especially on the “Arab Spring.”
If you wonder why the United States is helping to install Muslim Brotherhood regimes and to promote Islamism, Brennan is the inspiration. How much more powerful will he be as CIA director, when he can slant the intelligence analysis to show that his thesis is working! (While there is no hard evidence that he will do so, viewing his public record and his determination to distort the facts I have no doubt that this is happening.)
Basically, the Brennan Doctrine says the following:
On September 11, 2001, a terrible attack on America happened. Clearly, U.S. past policy was responsible. Apologies must be made. Muslims must be courted. Fortunately, of all the Islamist groups only al-Qaida has a direct strategy of targeting the United States directly.
What must be done is to ensure that no other Islamist groups want to repeat what al-Qaida has done. The way to do that is to show them that the United States is their friend, helps them, even gives them money and weapons (at least indirectly), even just plain flattery.
Naturally this means the absolutely minimal use of the “I” word in the training of U.S. trips, the policy statements of American officials, and so on. This is the basis of what became the Benghazi affair: blame Americans for being Islamophobic rather than the Islamists for being Americanophobic.
Get the media to downplay Islamic involvement in internal terror attacks like Boston, Fort Hood, and the Arkansas recruiter slaying. Even say, “al-Quds” (the Arabic name for the city) rather than Jerusalem (the Hebrew and Christian name). Tell NASA that one of its prime tasks is to make Muslims feel good about their scientific contributions.
This has applied to the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia, Egypt, and later Syria; the Hizballah regime in Lebanon; and the Islamist regime in Turkey. If the Obama Administration could get away with it, Hamas would also be engaged in this way.
Of course, the president had to be receptive to that approach and that’s why he named Brennan first as his advisor on terrorism and later the CIA director. Congress, which doesn’t seem to understand all of the points written above here, wasn’t going to put up much of a fuss about it.
The really interesting question now, however, is what role Brennan is going to play as CIA director. In a sense, all problems on the issues which he is interested in will be divided into two parts: the Middle East and everything else. From what we know about his views, which are only on the Middle East, it does not bode well for the rest of the world. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that he knows anything about the rest of the world.
Hints about this were given in Obama’s recent Fort McNair speech which Brennan must have had a leading role in writing. This might be called Brennan phase two, in which he has to accept certain aspects of reality.
Yes, al-Qaida has been defeated but because it has been defeated it has to retreat to just influencing people to stage local terrorist attacks. So the war on terror isn’t over after all. But we’re on the right track. Of course, what is needed is not a strategic policy but sort of a drone attack plus law enforcement strategy.
On the main points—ignoring the strategic threat from Islamism and making the “I’s” feel A-OK with America–that’s still the top priority. If you appease, you please. But actually the anti-Islamists fighting desperately for their lives in the Middle East are not pleased at all. Everyone in the region knows you can’t rely on the United States anymore.
Where does Brennan think the terror attacks are going to come from in the future? Once safe havens for terrorism are established securely, whether Sunni or Shia, the chickens will come home to roost. The truth is that America has already accommodated itself with a nuclear Iran. And despite bravado that means Israel will also have to do so and puts its trust into preemption and deterrence.
Finally, there is one more point of serious concern. Governments have persistent problems with what is called the “cooking” of intelligence. People know they prosper when they tell the boss what he wants to hear. They also like to tell the boss what they believe and what they want him to believe.
Will Brennan slant intelligence assessments to downplay Islamist threats, to continue supporting Islamist regimes, to sell his vision of reality to the rest of the administration, who know far less?
Here are three examples of such things happening before:
–When Director of National Intelligence Clapper told Congress in August 2011 that the Muslim Brotherhood was moderate and secular where did he get that idea? Of course, the top people don’t know much. They base what they say on the briefings and notes they get from intelligence. So the Brotherhood’s moderation was being systematically exaggerated.
–In the end, intelligence reports during and after Benghazi allowed a misleading interpretation to emerge. One can be sure Brennan was a leading figure in the cover-up. And if you know how government works you understand that the administration’s leaders ended up by convincing themselves that it was indeed a video that caused the attack.
–Thanks to Wikileaks we can see lots of secret documents that show State Department warnings about the real agenda of the Turkish regime, the threat of upheaval in Tunisia, and warnings by Arab leaders about the Islamist threat. Why were these discounted at the top unless this was disputed by people like Brennan in the White House?
One might claim that the Brennan strategy has prevented another September 11, though I doubt this is true. What one cannot even claim credibly is that the U.S. position has not declined in the Middle East because the administration accepted the Brennan thesis hook, line, and sinker. And now comes the sinking.
“You are getting sleepy. Repeat after me: The MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS GOOD, WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Oh, yes, and Joe Biden is a very bright guy. You got that?”
Photo of Maisie Rubin by Judy Rubin.